Date added: 26 Apr 2015
Thomas Simpson – Waterloo-Man
Thomas Simpson was born in April, 1797 in Kidderminster. Owing to a trifling dispute at home, he ran away and enlisted at the age of fifteen. Shortly after this, he volunteered for the ‘long service’, entering the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusileers in the early 1815. In May he sailed for Ostend to form part of the army assembling under the Duke of Wellington, to repel Bonaparte. Throughout the battle of Waterloo he was present, his regiment forming part of the left wing.
To the very last of his life he retained a vivid recollection of what there took place, under his observation. As he was in the front rank he was constantly kneeling. Yet, strange to say, though in constant action, he received no wound of any description on this occasion. His regiment was in square nearly the whole day, engaged in repelling incessant attacks of Cuirassiers.
At one moment their Captain, through inadvertence, had very nearly caused their destruction. Thinking he saw a favourable opportunity for a charge, he gave the word of command to form line and advance. He had not perceived a body of cavalry that was watching them on the flank, and which seized the opportunity swiftly to bear down upon them. Another moment or two and they would have been destroyed; but their Colonel, who had perceived the lines riding up, gave the word instantly to reform square and the onset was successfully repelled.
At the end of the battle, when the French had begun sullenly to retreat, a ball from one of their howitzers struck Simpson’s right hand man full in the breast, killing him on the spot. He was a native of the same town and he enlisted on the same day.
For 24 hours after the battle Simpson lay in a ditch utterly exhausted through want of food, the Commisariat having disgracefully failed; and was saved almost miraculously by a cordial given by a good-natured officer.
In 1820 he received his discharge. He began to reside in Durham in 1829, and for 20 years worked in Messrs Henderson’s manufactory. In 1869, his wife being dead, he was elected an in-brother of Sherburn Hospital. One of the very few survivors of the Waterloo veterans in the area, he died in Sherburn Hospital, near Durham on 10th July 1877.
It is likely that Thomas Simpson was one of the local Waterloo men who attended the first Durham Regatta in 1834. Forty-three of these brave fellows were treated to ‘a substantial supper and a plentiful supply of strong ale and punch’ provided to them by a Captain Chipchase, himself a veteran of the Peninsular War. In later years, the tradition developed of Durham Regatta promising free ale to anyone who could prove that he had fought under Wellington at Waterloo or in the Peninsular.